FN Herstal celebrates US Army, AW101 advances

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By Craig Hoyle

FN Herstal is at the show celebrating a major recent success with arming some of the US Army’s Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters, and also after completing integration work with an AgustaWestland AW101 utility helicopter.

The Belgian company has been selected to equip a fleet of 340 OH-58Ds with its M3P 0.50cal (12.7mm) machine guns, as part of an urgent upgrade to the type for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The full integration deal is the first of its kind secured with the US armed forces, as previous work by the company on types including the Boeing CH-47 Chinook and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk has centred on providing pintle-mounted weapons only.

Some of the army’s OH-58Ds have already received M3P guns, following flight trials performed in the USA late last year. The weapon has a precision engagement range of up to 2.5km (1.3nm), FN Herstal says. “It’s a big step, and an incredible highlight for the company,” it adds.

© FN Herstal

The company also in early April supplied two of its RMP pods, each with three integrated launch tubes for 70mm rockets, for flight trials with an AW101 in Belgium (above). The host aircraft was an Italian military example, but the work was performed in support of an export campaign involving the type with an undisclosed nation.


CAE to help build virtual CSeries for total testing

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By David Learmount

Montreal, Canada-based simulator manufacturer CAE (hall 3, C38) is working with Bombardier (hall 2E, E111) to produce the first full flight simulator for the CSeries next-generation single-aisle twinjet. But Bombardier is also going to employ CAE’s skills in systems integration and simulation well before the new aircraft needs to train pilots to fly it for real, helping the manufacturer to set up a new totally integrated CSeries systems test rig.

The skills CAE will deploy in support of the CSeries represent an extension of its traditional range of engineering services, says Jeff Roberts, CAE’s group president civil simulation products, enabling the company to offer design and test support during the development phase of any new aircraft.

A new Bombardier plant in Montreal will house a virtual CSeries aircraft that will be created by linking all the aircraft systems and components and running them for the equivalent of some two years of flight test activity, so that when the real aircraft gets airborne the systems and their integration has already been proven. CAE will be working with Bombardier to create this virtual aircraft, which Bombardier calls its “complete integrated aircraft systems test aircraft (CIASTA)”.

CAE says: “CAE will first provide a comprehensive suite of products, engineering services and simulation-based technology tools to support the design, testing and certification of the CSeries platform [the CIASTA]. All research and developmentfor this project will be done in Montreal. CAE will then design and deliver the prototype full flight simulator for this project as well as a full suite of CAE Simfinity training devices to support the aircraft entry into service and Bombardier flight and technical training.”

CAE adds that it is launching a new suite of products and services, to be known as the CAE Augmented Engineering Environment (CAEE) as part of the CIASTA programme. The CAEE will include a modelling and simulation environment that will allow original equipment manufacturers to evaluate, test and validate a range of aircraft models and systems during the development phase.

As part of the CIASTA programme, CAE says, it will deliver an engineering simulator, host computer system and interface with an integrated system test certification rig that is used to perform testing in a “hardware in the loop environment” to support systems development, systems validation and verification, to test for safety, and to support certification.

Work on the programme will start immediately, says CAE, and the delivery of the CAEE to support the CSeries CIASTA will take place in 2011. The prototype CSeries full flight simulator and Simfinity training devices for initial pilot and engineer training will be in place early in 2013 to support the aircraft’s entry into service later that year.


Bombardier eyes 2012 CSeries first flight as development picks up

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By Mary Kirby

Bombardier has reached the joint definition phase of its CSeries programme and has confirmed the airliner will fly in 2012. Seventeen new suppliers have joined the programme, and the airframer has revealed substantial new details about progress on the 110/130-seat project.

The first CSeries composite aft fuselage demonstrator is advancing at Bombardier’s Saint Laurent facility near Montreal, Canada, while the first centre fuselage barrel, being developed by China’s Shenyang Aircraft, is scheduled to be shipped to Montreal in August.

Bombardier’s Belfast facility in Northern Ireland is responsible for producing the CSeries composite wing, and it has begun assembly of its first demonstrator.

Installation of the upper skin panel has been completed and the lower skin panel will be added within weeks. The Belfast site is also preparing to break ground later this summer on a multi-million dollar wing assembly facility.

Bombardier
© Bombardier

Meanwhile, Bombardier has revealed contracts with a multitude of additional suppliers for the Pratt & Whitney 1500G-powered CSeries. One of the most significant awards, for development and manufacture of the CSeries wheels, electro-mechanically actuated carbon brakes and brake control system, has been assigned to Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems, which tested the braking technology last October on a Global 5000.

Bombardier has also contracted Esterline Control Systems-Korry for the integrated cockpit control panels; Goodrich for its SmartProbe air data system, ice detection system and external, cockpit and maintenance lighting systems; Hamilton Sundstrand for the electrical system; Honeywell for the inertial reference system and the auxiliary power unit; and Kidde Aerospace & Defence for the integrated fire protection system.

Also tapped as CSeries suppliers are L-3 Aviation Recorders for the voice and flight data recording system; Liebherr-Aerospace Lindenberg for the complete landing gears system, Magnaghi & Salver for the composite inboard/outboard flaps, spoilers and main landing gear doors; Panasonic Avionics for the cabin management and passenger address system; Parker Air & Fuel Division for the fuel tank inerting system; Senior Aerospace BWT of Manchester for the low pressure air distribution systems; and Senior Aerospace SSP of California for the high pressure bleed air and ram air ducting systems.

The CSeries’ fixed leading edges, slats and tracks will be supplied by Sonaca of Gosselies, Belgium, while Spirit AeroSystems will supply the complete pylons. Woodward MPC is earmarked to provide the throttle quadrant assembly.

Having secured a total 100 CSeries commitments from Lufthansa for its Swiss International Air Lines unit and Irish lessor LCI, and with “more than 150 potential customers showing strong interest” in the CSeries family, Bombardier has “no intention of turning back”, says Bombardier new commercial aircraft programme director Ben Boehm.

The company will this autumn break ground on its first CSeries building in Mirabel, a testing and training facility called the complete integrated aircraft system test area, or CIASTA, which will be erected in advance of an assembly facility at the site.

CAE of Montreal will support the design, testing and certification of the test platform by providing a suite of engineering services and simulation-based technology tools to the CIASTA programme. After that, CAE will build prototype full flight simulator and CAE Simfinity devices for the CSeries.

A 2012 first flight will be followed by 12 months of flight testing. Certification is expected in the second half of 2013, followed by entry into service before the year is out.


Air Nostrum orders up to 20 ATR 72-600s

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By Victoria Moores

Spanish regional carrier Air Nostrum has placed an order for 10 ATR 72-600s, building on its firm commitment to 35 Bombardier CRJ1000s which was formally detailed earlier this week.

Air Nostrum inked the ATR 72-600 deal at the Paris Air Show today, at the same time taking options on a further 10 of the type.

The ATR 72-600, which is a successor to the -500 series aircraft, is due for certification in 2010 with initial deliveries beginning in 2011. Air Nostrum industry affairs director Alberto Garcia Torres says the airline will be among the early customers for the ATR 72-600, although exact delivery dates are still under negotiation.

ATR
© ATR

ATR chief executive Stephane Mayer says the order represents a “clear vote of confidence” from Air Nostrum, which has been operating ATR aircraft since 1998.

Air Nostrum chief Carlos Bertomeu Martinez adds: “This is a logical step in our fleet policy. We are happy with the aircraft. Our passengers like the ATRs and our pilots like the ATRs.”

On 14 June Air Nostrum confirmed firm orders for 35 Bombardier CRJ1000 aircraft, after formalising an agreement to take a further 15 of the type and converting some backlogged CRJ900s.


F136 revs up thrust setting

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By Stephen Trimble

General Electric/Rolls-Royce claims the F136 alternate engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be introduced with a major power advantage over its rival propulsion system.

The F136 engine core has been sized to enter service with a maximum rating of about 43,000lb thrust (190kN), and could be further upgraded over time to 45,000lb, says Mark Rhodes, senior vice-president for the F136 joint venture Fighter Engine Team.

By contrast, the Pratt & Whitney F135 has demonstrated about 41,000lb thrust in hover pit tests for the short-take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant in April. That system will be upgraded by 5% next year, raising the F135 to 43,000lb thrust.

Rhodes says the F136 was designed in the aftermath of the weight growth problem that delayed the F-35 development schedule by two years, so the company was able to size the engine core and fan to provide a higher level of thrust from the beginning.

GE/Rolls-Royce F136
© GE/Rolls-Royce

That built-in advantage should make the F136 more desirable over the next decade as operators add more capabilities – and weight – to operational F-35 fleets, he says.

“The experience has been you always need more thrust,” Rhodes says.

Further, an R-R executive last week also noted that the F136 would be in line for a dramatic thrust upgrade around 2020, when either his company or GE would be prepared to introduced variable cycle engine technology.

Those arguments could figure largely into the ongoing debate about the future of the F136 funding account.

In response to the Pentagon’s decision to remove funds for the F136 for the fourth year in a row, Congress has again moved to restore the programme’s budget, says Jean Lydon-Rogers, president of the Fighter Engine Team.

Last week, a House armed services subcommittee added $603 million to the DoD’s authorisation bill, which includes $463 million to continue development and $140 million to buy the first four production engines.

It was not immediately clear if the added funding would require the F-35 programme to buy fewer jets next year.

Meanwhile, the process of clearing the F136 for first flight in February 2011 on the conventional take-off and landing AF-1 prototype has recently begun, Lydon-Rogers says.

A second test engine is scheduled to begin testing in July, and a third engine should run by the end of the year, she adds. By next July, the first six F136s should be delivered to Lockheed.


Pratt to begin detailed design of geared turbofan in July

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By Mary Kirby

Pratt & Whitney will in mid-July begin the detailed design phase of its PW1000G geared turbofan engine for the Bombardier CSeries and Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), in advance of formal engine testing in the middle of 2010.

The enginemaker is “in the final stages of preliminary engine design” after completing successful flight evaluation programmes on its in-house Boeing 747 and Airbus A340-600 test aircraft, says Bob Saia, P&W next-generation product family vice-president.

Following the flight evaluation, Airbus agreed that P&W had met “all projections we had set for the gear system”, says Saia. “We did what we said we were going to do.” P&W then disassembled parts of the demonstrator engine, made certain measurements and reassembled it as a display vehicle. The powerplant, which logged more than 400h of testing, including 120h in flight, is on show this week at P&W’s exhibit in hall 5.

The company is now proceeding with the slow “but very thorough” process of margin testing, which aims to push the geared turbofan technology to its limits. “Now we want to know what will cause it to fail,” says Saia, noting that this will enable P&W to determine the system’s maintenance characteristics.

Bombardier will use the 20,000-24,000lb thrust (89-107kN) class PW1500G to power its new CSeries mainline jet, while Mitsubishi is taking the 13,000-17,000lb thrust class PW1200G for its MRJ. Both airframers “are very pleased” with the state of the programme and the data gleaned through testing of the geared architecture, says Saia. P&W is targeting engine certification for the end of 2011. The CSeries and MRJ are scheduled to enter into service in 2013.

The geared turbofan is expected to achieve about a 15% fuel efficiency gain over current architectures, but P&W’s objective is to improve fuel consumption in the order of 1-1.5% a year. “We think that by EIS of next-generation narrowbodies, the engine could have 22-23% better fuel burn than current generation narrowbodies. We know we can make it better,” says P&W president Dave Hess.